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Straight Talking - October 2008

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Strasbourg

(Yes, we're back in Straz again after the roof-fall, having missed two Straz sessions in September).

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for Conservative Party members and activists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about developments in the EU. If you receive the newsletter second-hand and want to go onto the e-mail list (or if you want to be deleted), please e-mail me on .

Alternatively you can subscribe with this form.

Europe fails the big test

The financial crisis should have shown the EU in its best light, providing a coordinated response to usher in global stability. On Saturday Oct 4th, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy met in Brussels, with Commission President Barroso and the head of the ECB, and called for a Europe-wide response. They condemned Ireland for its unilateral move to guarantee bank deposits. Then, just one day later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel broke ranks and guaranteed German deposits. In an emergency, European decision-making is just too slow and ponderous to cope, so it was Sauve qui peut (as the French say). This has blown apart any pretence of EU solidarity.

Knee-jerk calls for more regulation

Of course the crisis has generated knee-jerk calls for more regulation. So let's remember two things:

First, European rules played a large part in getting us into this mess. Why did the Bank of England last year fail to deal with Northern Rock as it would have years ago, quietly without fuss behind closed doors? Because Brussels rules on state aid and transparency prevented it from doing so -- and created panic amongst depositors. And EU rules on capital adequacy ratios, requiring market valuation on assets, while perfectly sensible and prudent in normal times, lead to perverse consequences when, as today, the markets have seized up and there is no realistic valuation available. Brussels did not create the global crisis, but EU rules have made it much more difficult to cope with.

Secondly, knee-jerk calls for more regulation usually end up doing more harm than good. The US Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, perfectly well-intentioned, in fact drove business out of New York -- to the great benefit of London.

Before we create new regulations, we should ask if existing rules are working properly, and whether the implementation -- the behaviour of the regulators -- has been up to the mark. See Market failure, or policy and regulatory failure

Party Conference: A success despite the crisis

Party Conference in Birmingham was extremely well-attended, as the commentariat factored in the prospect of a Conservative victory at the next General Election. Of course it was over-shadowed by the financial crisis. But I thought that David Cameron and the Party struck exactly the right tone, and Cameron's final speech was a triumph -- not least because he returned to core Conservative issues that we had previously seemed to be rather coy about.

Alongside the Conference, our "Freedom Zone" fringe event in Austin Court was a huge success, with support from David Davies, Gerald Howarth, John Redwood, John Whittingdale, Dan Hannan, Douglas Carswell and a host of other luminaries including Iain Dale, Ruth Lea, Jonathan Isaby, Tim Montgomerie and so on. There was a real buzz about the place from the "Big Bad Breakfast" right through the day on Monday and Tuesday.

Our climate Change session with Ruth Lea and Caroline Boin included a stunning presentation from Christopher (Viscount) Monckton.

See some pictures of the "Freedom Zone"

TFA on YouTube

The Freedom Association now has its own YouTube channel! To hear more from The Freedom Zone, plus other "Freedom" activities, check it out.

Blame where Blame is due: Gordon Brown

Quite rightly, platform speakers at Conference were reluctant to score cheap points against Labour, given the serious situation we face. But I am astonished by the bare-faced cheek of Gordon Brown in insisting he is the man with the experience for the job. To paraphrase, he's saying "Because I got you into this mess, I am the man to get you out of it".

Admittedly the problem is global, not national or local. But throughout the good years in the late 90s and early 2000s, most western finance ministers paid down debt, and were in not too bad shape to face the storm. Uniquely in Britain we had Gordon Brown spending like a drunken sailor, and pouring money into unreformed public services.

I am reminded of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in the New Testament. You recall that the wise virgins saved lamp-oil for party-time, while the foolish virgins burned theirs too soon. Then the foolish virgins asked the wise ones for a loan, and went away with a flea in their ear.

Gordon is fond of saying that this was a crisis that started in America. But I seem to recall that the first I heard of it was when Northern Rock got into trouble, and we had the first run on a British bank for over a century. Yes, the US sub-prime crisis was a large part of the problem, but by no means the whole of it.

Gordon got us into this mess. He's the last man to get us out of it.

Back to the future

I guess I was as stunned as everyone else at the news that Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson have buried the hatchet (or say they have -- for now). As one of the papers asked, is this a new super-group, or a tired old tribute band? But I've noticed senior Labour politicians insisting (rightly) that bank chiefs should not be rewarded for failure. Odd, therefore, that failed ministers dropped from earlier government posts should be dug out of retirement and rewarded with new portfolios, like Mandelson and (even more surprising, perhaps) Margaret Beckett.

Now Gordon is proposing to replace Mandy in Brussels with a little-known Lady from the House of Lords, who seems to have little relevant experience. As one of my colleagues irreverently remarked, he's replacing one Old Dame with another.

Driving business offshore

At a recent meeting with representatives of Europia, the European Petroleum Industry Association, I was briefed on the likely impact of the EU's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). This is the so-called market-based mechanism designed to assign "rights to pollute" where they are most ess­ential and most valuable. It is of course a wholly artificial construct, and the first phase of ETS has added to industry costs without reducing emissions.

From a business point of view, the ETS makes production in the EU more expensive and far less predictable, and it favours importers over EU-based refiners. So the industry was quite frank: unless similar schemes are put in place world-wide (which is pretty unlikely), the EU will simply be a less attractive place to invest, and future investment, production and jobs will go elsewhere. That's bad for our economy, but even worse for our energy security.

Yet again, an EU measure damages our prosperity and our security. No wonder Dan Hannan says that the EU is making us poorer, and less democratic, and less free.

EU Climate and energy package to cost UK £9 billion a year

A new report from Open Europe gives this startling figure. It will mean another million people in fuel poverty by 2020. And it includes the renewables plan that threatens to bring our economy to its knees. Get the full picture at www.openeurope.org.uk/research/carep.pdf

Climate Change: The Report Stage

For a year or so I have been sitting on the European parliament's Temporary Committee on Climate Change, which of course with a few honourable exceptions is populated by passionate climate alarmists and Little Green Devils. I have been, not quite a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but close to it.

The rapporteur is German MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz, a charming fellow but a fully-paid-up member of the alarmist tendency. He has now produced his draft report, which is a predictable litany of bad science and worse economics (though to his credit he does at least recognise some of problems of biofuels, on which I have had a huge post-bag from the region).

We are debating his report in Committee at the moment, and I have the opportunity to table some amendments. All of my amendments will, of course, be voted down, but at least I shall give the rational position an airing. And the list of amendments makes quite a useful summary of the alternative case.

Parliamentary reports always start with a list of "recitals", which means factors to be borne in mind in the report. Florenz has no fewer than 100, which is exceptional. These usually start "Whereas...", and I have followed this quaint custom for my additional dozen.

Whereas the world has experienced no global warming for a decade, with average global temperatures static or declining since 1998

Whereas the pattern of global warming (in terms of latitude and altitude) predicted by computer models using the anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis is wholly at variance with actual climate changes as revealed by ground stations, meteorological balloons and especially satellite measurements

Whereas the climate forcing effect of CO2 is governed by a logarithmic relationship, creating a law of diminishing returns, so that future increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations from current levels will have only a marginal effect on climate

Whereas the global climate has been warmer than today's for several periods during the last 5000 years, notably during the Holocene maxima, in the Roman optimum and in the Mediaeval Warm Period

Whereas more than 32,000 scientists have signed the Oregon Declaration challenging the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, in addition to the similar Manhattan Declaration of March 2008

Whereas measures to reduce CO2 emissions, such as the Kyoto protocol, even if fully implemented, would have a trivial effect on climate

Whereas even if the EU adopts aggressive emissions policies, it is extremely unlikely that other major emitters such as China and India will do so, and the EU's sacrifices will be in vain, and cause devastating economic damage and loss of competitiveness

Whereas studies of changes in sea level fail to show the increasing rate of rise predicted by anthropogenic climate models

Whereas despite predictions to the contrary, studies of polar bear populations show major increases in polar bear numbers in recent decades

Whereas many studies by reputable economists find that the costs of proposed action to mitigate climate change will significantly exceed any possible benefits

Whereas studies by reputable economists, notably by Bjorn Lomborg and his Copenhagen Consensus, show that money proposed to be used for CO2 emissions reduction would achieve much greater good for humanity if spent on other programmes like eradicating malaria, or providing fresh water, health-care and education across the third world

Whereas human societies have prospered in a wide range of temperatures and climates, and many commentators argue that adaptation to changes in climate are a much more measured and practical response to climate change than attempts to prevent it.

Climate Change: The DVD

Last June I gave a lunch-time speech at Global Vision in London on the issue of climate change, and a member of the audience told me I should get a film made of it. So I did. If you'd like a copy, send an addressed A5 envelope to me at 9 Prospect Court, Courteenhall Road, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, NN7 3DG.

I will be sending several DVDs to all East Midlands constituencies.

Quote of the Month (1)

"The idea that human beings have changed and are changing the basic climate system of the Earth through their industrial activities and burning of fossil fuels -- the essence of the Greens' theory of global warming -- has about as much basis in science as Marxism and Freudianism. Global warming, like Marxism, is a political theory of actions, demanding compliance with its rules."

--Paul Johnson, Forbes Magazine, 6 October 2008

Ruth Lea on EU climate policy:

Ruth Lea from Global Vision has written an excellent piece on climate change.

A Rough Guide to the EU Budget

My fellow East Midlands MEP Chris Heaton-Harris has published an excellent guide to the EU budget, outlining where our money goes and just exactly how it is wasted. To read more, click here.

Did the US military fund the Irish NO Campaign?

Brussels news reports are suggesting that US interests funded Libertas, the Irish NO (to Lisbon) campaign, to the tune of €200,000. This of course would be a shocking subversion of democracy, and MEPs are asking very serious questions about it. But hang on a minute. Not only did the European taxpayer (this means you!) fund the Yes campaign. It is also well known that the US, including the CIA, provided extensive financial and other support to the European movement and other pro-integrationists over decades. That, apparently, was OK. But funding the NO side? Intolerable!

Quote of the month (2)

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the Daily Telegraph of Sept 22nd about the spill-over of the financial crisis from the US to Europe, and the decision of the ECB to raise interest rates, "Do the hawks (at the European Central Bank) mean to unleash Götterdämerung on the peoples of Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Greece, with all the dangers that must accompany a disintegration of EMU?".

The financial crisis is a very serious matter, and no one should treat it lightly. But there may be a silver lining. A measure of market confidence in the euro is the spread between euro-bonds from different countries. If the euro is in good shape, the spreads should be close to zero. If the market smells a threat to the euro's cohesion, the spreads will widen. Ambrose and other commentators were concerned when the spreads reached 30 basis points some months ago. But the global financial storm has driven a wedge between national bonds, with spreads over 90 points.

The possibility of a euro break-up is being factored in by the market. The euro is the only currency in the world not backed by a national Treasury. And it has become clear recently that Germany is unwilling to be the lender of last resort, and to bail out what it sees (rightly) as the profligate economies of southern Europe. A euro break-up is now more likely than not.

Dan's Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain

My colleague, Daniel Hannan, along with Douglas Carswell MP, have recently published a new book outlining their vision of what needs to change and what specific legislative steps -- including the actual draft Bill -- need to be taken.

As one commentator put it, the book "takes an unflinching look at what is wrong with British politics today, how we got here and best of all, how to fix it in a pragmatic, sensible way. No rocket science, no sophistry, no 'eye-catching initiatives'; just good, solid, sensible, easily understood legislation."

I encourage anyone wanting to fix our government's broken policies and revitalise our country to buy this book.

"The Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain" can be purchased online.

Is Obama a US Citizen?

Barack Obama faces a legal challenge that could cost him the Presidency. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA6_k3NtXZs

EU-funding of pro-wind farm campaigns

The EU it seems - through Friends of the Earth - is helping to support the pro-wind farm lobby. Click here to find out what I had to say about this!

Check the blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com

For current comment, spats in the parliament, video links to recent speeches and interviews, even a little incidental humour -- check out the carborexics!


That's it for this Strasbourg session. Please remember to check this website for more background on current parliamentary business, details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.